Both wine and cheese have long and fascinating histories spanning thousands of years.
Evidence for cheese making in Europe has been found to date as far back as 6000BC. Ceramics with tiny holes in the sides have been dated back to this era, and were discovered to be cheese strainers. Cheese may be an indulgent treat today, but back then the creation of cheese would have been incredibly important to society. It may even have been the first method of preserving milk products, helping families survive and thrive.
The earliest winery to be discovered so far dates back to about 4000BC. A wine press, fermentation containers, grapevines and seeds were all found in a cave in Armenia. The containers also had traces of malvidin, the grape pigment that gives red wine its colour. There are indications this winery was at an old burial site, suggesting that wine may have had something to do with honouring the dead. So the simple act of raising a glass for a toast may also have incredibly old origins.
Given the fact they both have such ancient beginnings, it’s no wonder wine and cheese found their way to each other. According to The Complete Book of Cheese: “A country without a fit drink for cheese has no cheese fit for drink.” But is the wine and cheese pairing a mere accident, or is there something more to it?
There are scientists dedicating their lives to finding out why wine and cheese are an ideal match, in what could possibly be the best job in the world. Some say there’s something about the combination of oil coming from fatty cheese and the astringent, dry sensation that comes from tasting wine. The magic of both together brings balance to the palate. Experiments during wine and cheese tasting sessions have also shown that – as the effect of the cheese builds up in the mouth – it makes people increasingly sensitive to the subtle flavours within the wine. So saving your best wine until the end of a meal could be beneficial in more ways than one.
However it happened, wine and cheese is a foolproof match that is here to stay. Here are some of our favourite recommendations for wine and cheese pairings.
So-called ‘bloomy cheeses’ are creamy and rich with a soft rind. Camembert is one of these cheeses and champagne is a superb match. The bubbles give a lightness that allows the decadent character of the Camembert to shine through
Hard cheeses like pecorino are often aged, with a sharp or salty tang. Pairing pecorino with a fragrant red wine such as Valpolicella allows the strong flavours to sing, but a little fruitiness from the wine helps create some balance.
Blue cheese has a characteristically strong smell and is often quite salty and crumbly too. This makes the sweetness and thicker quality of port the perfect match, helping to complement rather than compete with the bold flavours of the gorgonzola.
Fresh cheeses such as goat’s cheese are soft and can be either mild or tangy. Pairing this with crisp or dry wines works best. Chenin Blanc, with its more acidic quality compared to other whites, is a good bet. With just a hint of fruit too, it’s ideal for complementing the creaminess of the cheese.
If you are dining in The Lock Bar and Kitchen throughout September 2017 order a cheese board and enjoy a complimentary glass of Quinta do Infantado LBV Port or Denbies Noble Harvest Dessert Wine to complement the cheese selection.